In the United States, nearly 1 in 3 adults has a criminal record, which limits their access to education, jobs, housing, voting, and other things necessary for a full and productive life. Even after their debt to society is paid, these men and women face some 44,000 documented legal restrictions, in addition to widespread social stigma. This is sometimes called the "second prison."
This all occurs against the backdrop of the criminal justice system's stark racial imbalances. People of color—particularly Black Americans—are disproportionately represented at every stage of the U.S. criminal justice system, from arrest to reintegration. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we continue the important work of raising awareness about the challenges men and women face upon reentry as they seek health care, housing, and employment.
Prison Fellowship® is committed to advancing justice that restores and reflects the God-given value of all persons. For more than 40 years, we have been advocating for more proportional accountability, constructive corrections culture, and second chances. Prison Fellowship spearheaded Second Chance® Month in 2017 to raise awareness of the barriers faced by returning citizens and to unlock second chances for these men and women who dream of a better tomorrow.
WHAT IS SECOND CHANCE MONTH?
We all wish to be treated with dignity and have the opportunity to reach our full potential. And after making a wrong choice, we want a chance to make it right and rebuild. Led by Prison Fellowship every April, Second Chance Month is a nationwide campaign to unlock opportunities for the tens of millions of Americans with a criminal record who have paid their debt to society. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's observance will go on—with modifications for public health and safety.
'America is a place of dreamers, second chances, and redemption. Millions of Americans in this country have criminal records, and those who have paid their dues and served their time deserve the opportunity to be contributing members of society. … With Second Chance Month, we look to shine a light on ways to unlock opportunities for those in search of new life.'
Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif
Prison Fellowship observes April as Second Chance Month for the first time in 2017. More than 77 organizations join the nonpartisan effort as official second chance partners. Throughout April, Prison Fellowship mobilizes individuals, businesses, organizations, legislators, and other supporters to sign petitions, post to social media, attend special events, and amplify the call for second-chance opportunities in the United States.
March 30—Prison Fellowship, the NAACP, the Heritage Foundation, ACLU, Koch Industries, and the NACDL declare April 2017 as Second Chance Month
Throughout April—Colorado, Maine, Michigan, and St. Paul, Minnesota also proclaim April 2017 as Second Chance Month.
April 8—Prison Fellowship hosts the first Second Chance 5K at Sloan's Lake Park in Denver.
April 23—Prison Fellowship and Minnesota partners host a Second Chance 5K at Concordia University's Sea Foam Stadium in St. Paul; in solidarity, prisoners at Lino Lakes, Shakopee, and Stillwater facilities run their own 5Ks behind bars.
April 26—The United States Senate unanimously passes a resolution declaring April 2017 as Second Chance Month.
For a second consecutive year, Prison Fellowship declares April as Second Chance Month. More than 200 businesses, congregations, organizations, and supporters join with Prison Fellowship as official second chance partners. (Partnership does not indicate support for any particular legislation or policies).
Prison Fellowship's President and CEO James J. Ackerman and Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy Craig DeRoche meet with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss Prison Fellowship's work and the nation's readiness for second chances.
March 30—The White House issues proclamation recognizing April as Second Chance Month.
Throughout April—The U.S. House introduces a Second Chance Month resolution for April 2018. Thirteen states and six other jurisdictions also recognize April as Second Chance Month.
April 7—Prison Fellowship organizes the first Road to Second Chances Prayer Walk in Washington, D.C.
April 22—The second annual Second Chance 5K is held in St. Paul, Minnesota; various organizations and individuals host additional Second Chance 5Ks throughout the country.
April 27—The U. S. Senate passes a resolution declaring April 2018 as Second Chance Month.
The White House, along with 23 states and the District of Columbia, declares April as Second Chance Month for a second consecutive year. Prison Fellowship partners with more than 300 other organizations—like the NAACP, the Heritage Foundation, ACLU, and Koch Industries—who are leading the charge to unlock the potential of formerly incarcerated people.
March 28—Prison Fellowship kicks off the third annual Second Chance Month, alongside a coalition of over 320 Second Chance Month partners, at the historic Watergate Hotel—a fitting reminder of the second chance story of our founder, the late Chuck Colson.
March 29—For the second consecutive year, the White House issues a proclamation recognizing April as Second Chance Month.
Throughout April—The U.S. House and Senate introduce Second Chance Month resolutions for April 2019, garnering 18 bipartisan co-sponsors. Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., also recognize April as Second Chance Month. #SecondChanceMonth Twitter chats feature 26 guest panelists, including Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee and U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, reaching 17.3 million people from 68 countries with social media posts in April.
April 4—Prison Fellowship hosts a congressional briefing on occupational licensing reform, sponsored by Representative Tony Cardenas, D-Calif.
April 6—Prison Fellowship organizes the second annual Road to Second Chances event in Washington, D.C., while partners lead their own prayer walks in communities across the country.
April 13—The third annual Second Chance 5K takes place in St. Paul, Minnesota; additional Second Chance 5Ks happen throughout the country—including several inside of prisons.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on U.S. criminal justice and prison systems. Prison Fellowship and our partners adapted Second Chance Month 2020 events from in-person to virtual in response to the virus.
Throughout April, social media campaigns, prayer meetings, Twitter chats, and other activities centered around Second Chance Month took place around the nation. Prayer leaders in Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Lincoln, Oklahoma City, Fresno, and San Bernardino joined forces for a Road to Second Chances Virtual Prayer Meeting, where community members from all these cities came together to cover our nation with prayer. More than 380 partners joined Prison Fellowship in advocating for second chances, and several states declared their support for Second Chance Month.
March 27—Prison Fellowship and Faith & Law co-host a briefing for congressional staffers on second chances and the pandemic's impact on reentry.
April 1—Prison Fellowship pivots to celebrate the fourth annual Second Chance Month with a virtual gala.
April 1—The White House issues a proclamation, signed by the president, declaring April as Second Chance Month for the third year in a row.
April 18—The Road to Second Chances Virtual Prayer Meeting featured real-life stories of people living out their second chance and opportunities to pray for all those affected by crime and incarceration.
Throughout April—Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., joined Prison Fellowship and the White House to declare April Second Chance Month.
Year by year, the conversation is shifting, and an ever-increasing number of jurisdictions, businesses, churches, and organizations are working to make second chances a part of their culture—not just in April, but every month of the year.
'I'm a living testament of what second chances can do in the life of a returning citizen.'
Alice Marie Johnson, criminal justice advocate and former prisoner
IN THE NEWS
Second Chance Month has received widespread recognition by media outlets and other groups every year.
SECOND CHANCE MONTH IN THE NEWS
- Advocates fight for vulnerable inmates to be released from what they call a coronavirus 'death sentence' (The Orleans Gambit, 5/4/2020)
- Office of Justice Programs Observes Second Chance Month (Office of Justice Programs, 4/29/2020)
- Help is in Enid During Trying Times (Enid News & Eagle, 4/7/2020)
- 'Second Chance Month' Highlights Need to Help Inmates Successfully Reintegrate to Society (Enid News & Eagle, 4/5/2020)
- Second Chance Month Prayer Meeting: Interview with Pastor Kelly (Fox 32 Chicago, 4/2020)
- Governor Declares April Second Chance Month (The Clanton Advertiser, 3/27/2020)
OPINION EDITORIALS ON SECOND CHANCE MONTH
- Congress Should Include Second Chances in Coronavirus Relief Bill (The Hill, 5/6/20)
- An Opportunity to Celebrate Second Chances (The Detroit News, 4/16/20)
- The Gospel of Second Chances (Christian Post, 5/10/19)
- Second Chance Month Provides Second Chances (The Washington Times, 4/23/19)
- Land of the Free? A Web of Regulation is Turning Americans Into Criminals (The Stream, 7/2/19)
- Education in Prison Key to Successful Reentry (The Columbus Dispatch, 7/1/19)
- Second Chances Are Rung on Ladder to New Life(Naples News, 5/5/18)
- One in Four American Adults Lives with a Criminal Record—It's Time for Them to Get a Second Chance(Fox News, 4/30/18)
SECOND CHANCE MONTH PRESS RELEASES
- Prison Fellowship Praises Sen. Portman for Standing Up for Entrepreneurs with Criminal Records During Pandemic (Prison Fellowship, 5/1/2020)
- Prison Fellowship Praises Secretary Devos' Expansion of Higher Education in Prison (Prison Fellowship, 4/24/2020)
- White House Proclaims April 2020 as Second Chance Month (Prison Fellowship, 4/1/2020)
- White House Proclaims April 2019 as Second Chance Month (Prison Fellowship, 3/30/19)
- Watergate Hotel Gala to Kick Off 2019 Second Chance Month in April (Prison Fellowship, 3/25/19)
- Senate Resolution Names April 2018 as Second Chance Month(Prison Fellowship, 4/27/18)
- White House Proclaims April 2018 as Second Chance Month(Prison Fellowship, 3/31/18)
SECOND CHANCE MONTH BLOG POSTS
- Thank You for Believing in Second Chances! Second Chance Month 2019 Highlights (Prison Fellowship, 5/1/19)
- Celebrating Second Chances at Easter (Prison Fellowship, 4/25/19)
- Second Chances at Work: How One Company Built a Work Culture of Second Chances (Prison Fellowship, 4/12/19)
- Celebrate Second Chances Across the Nation (Prison Fellowship, 4/1/18)
- Second Chance Month Celebrates Human Dignity (Prison Fellowship, 3/26/18)
- [VIDEO] Prison Reform Continues to Gain Support from the White House (Prison Fellowship, 2/14/18)
- America is Ready for Prison Reform—Will Washington Respond? (Prison Fellowship, 2/5/18)
- Second Chance Month: Affording Former Offenders the Redemption They Deserve, (Charles Koh Institute, 2017)
'We believe the 70 million Americans with criminal records—one in three adults—can rise from their mistakes, regain their dignity, and reach their God-given potential in life. The barriers placed on people—returning citizens—wastes human potential and adds to recidivism, ultimately jeopardizing public safety. Second Chance Month enables us to further educate Americans about these obstacles and work toward solutions that will unlock second chances and create more flourishing and productive communities.'
James Ackerman, president and CEO of Prison Fellowship
SECOND CHANCE STORIES
Every person has dignity and potential. But approximately 1 in 3 Americans has a criminal record, limiting their futures. Hear from former prisoners on life after prison and join Prison Fellowship as we unlock brighter futures for the 70 million Americans who have repaid their debt to society.
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